Nov. 26, 2013
Switzerland is ready to assist Nigeria in the ongoing investigations into the alleged more than 6.8 billion dollars (N1.1 trillion) fraudulent oil deals involving the NNPC and Swiss oil trading companies.
Mr Hans-Rudolf Hodel, the country’s ambassador to Nigeria, made the pledge on Monday in Abuja.
Hodel told reporters that though no formal request for assistance had been made to his government on the issue by any representative of the Nigerian government, both countries had an existing mutual legal assistance.
This, he said, entails providing banking information and freezing of bank accounts, “if such accounts are identified in the criminal proceedings’’.
Hodel said that the report issued by the Swiss-based NGO, Berne Declaration, which highlighted the transactions between NNPC and Swiss companies, did not represent the official position of the Swiss government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the report entitled “Swiss Traders Opaque Deals in Nigeria”, catalogued the modus operandi employed the “letter box companies” and the alleged partners, to defraud Nigeria.
Following the report, the House of Representatives mandated a joint committee to investigate the alleged involvement of the NNPC with the Swiss oil dealers in the deals.
NAN reports that the NNPC has since denied involvement in the alleged fraud.
Hodel said: “I have no knowledge that we have been contacted by the authorities (Nigeria).
“In case they will start proceedings and they will need our help; of course, with the international legal cooperation we will help them if they approach us but until now they have not approached us,’’ he said.
The Swiss envoy recalled that in a letter dated Sept. 10, 2012, Nigeria had requested legal assistance from his country regarding the fuel subsidy scheme.
He said the request had been forwarded to “the competent Swiss judicial authorities’’ who are in contact with their Nigerian counterparts, but declined further information on the issue because legal proceedings are ongoing in Nigeria courts.
On the return of illicit assets to Nigeria, Hodel said cooperation between both countries culminated in the repatriation of alleged 700 million dollar loot by former Head of State, Gen. Sanni Abacha.
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“The entire 700 million dollars blocked in Swiss bank accounts have been returned to Nigeria and the case has been closed,’’ he said.
The envoy pledged his country’s commitment to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism in West Africa.
He said the Swiss Government and the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) would organise a three-day seminar on the issue from Tuesday, Nov. 26 to Thursday, Nov. 28 in Abuja.
He said the seminar would focus on the informal, cash-based aspects of money laundering and financing of terrorism, as well as cross-border cooperation of financial intelligence units. (NAN)